Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I Love John Farrell, But Where Was Koji?

This blog has, regrettably, been silent for many, many months, despite a staggering number of topics I could (and may well still) write quite a bit about. A $250M dollar trade, the unsurprising and well deserved firing of our former manager, an injury plagued but generally successful Patriots season and the infuriating playoff loss which ultimately ended it, a controversial new rule regarding helmet-to-helmet collisions, a rare player-for-manager trade which I hated at the time (a league average starting shortstop for a manager? are you kidding me?), a new Red Sox season full of pleasant surprises, and a couple of deadline deals would seem to be plenty, and when added to the media circus and eventual, horrible truth that rising star Aaron Hernandez had straight-up murdered someone it seems surprising I have written nothing on these topics for almost an entire year. 

What wakes this blog from its eleven month slumber? A relatively meaningless pitching change, of course!

Some context, for those uninformed about the final moments of this game: 

It is the bottom of the ninth, game tied at 2-2, Red sox on the road and facing the San Francisco Giants. Left-handed reliever Franklin Morales is on the mound, with the 6th, 7th, and 8th hitters due up for San Francisco. This is a high leverage situation (leverage index of 2.14 at the start of the inning), but with Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa already spent and Farrell reluctant to use his closer in a tie game on the road against the weaker part of their batting order, Morales seems to have been a reasonable call. He struck out Shortstop Brandon Crawford, gave up a single to the left fielder Roger Kieschnick, but got third baseman Joaquin Arias to fly out to Jacoby Ellsbury in center field. This proved to be the final out of the game, as he promptly walked pinch hitter Andres Torres and drilled center fielder Hector Sanchez with a pitch to load the bases for former Red Sock and current second baseman Marco Scutaro, a disciplined hitter if ever there was one. 

Farrell decided (very reasonably, I would say) that Morales should probably not be allowed to face Scutaro, considering that he was probably tired and that the right handed second baseman held the platoon advantage. 

Farrell also decided that the best option to face him was newly recalled right hander Bryant Villareal, a live arm with plenty of potential but, to this point, potentially disastrous control issues. 

It would be wrong to say that the resulting four pitch walkoff walk is "irrelevant." If Scutaro grounded out to second I probably would not bother to write about it, and this blog would continue its pathetic silence. On the other hand, the walk was a bad and predictable outcome from what I see as a very, very bad decision. 

Farrell said after the game that the decision was between Villareal and Brandon Workman, who had pitched the day before and is probably not a dramatically better pitcher in the first place. What Farrell should have done was leave both of them for extra innings and gone to his closer, Koji Uehara.  

His reasoning for not doing this is quite unsurprising but, if I may be so blunt, stupid. He said that if the Red Sox took the lead then Koji would be out there to close out the game, and he did not think he should be expected to pitch more than an inning if they took the lead. Additionally, the pitcher's spot was due up 4th in the inning, although with both David Ortiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia available to play first base and catcher, respectively, a double switch would not have been especially difficult to pull off. 

The most obvious flaw in this thinking is that the Red Sox were in no way certain to take the lead in the next inning or so. They were not even certain to get another chance, and as Villarreal's 3-0 pitch missed outside for the game ending ball four the Boston bats were quite helpless. In fact, what happened to that one batter was as critical as an entire hypothetical inning, and for this one batter, there was no uncertainty whatsoever that he would go up there to hit. 

That spot was one of the most high leverage situations possible in a baseball game. The leverage index at that point was 6.4, almost six and a half times as crucial as an average situation. As an extremely relevant comparison, the most crucial possible situation for Uehara to be put into to start an inning (if the red sox scored exactly one run) would be 3.6, nearly half that of this one at bat. 

Said even more simply, The Red Sox had a 35.1% chance of ultimately winning the game. If Scutaro got out the game would be back to dead even at the top of the 10th, with each team having an equal 50-50 shot at ultimately winning the game (+14.9% for the Red Sox). If Scutaro reaches in any way, or there is a wild pitch, passed ball, or even a balk, the game is over and the Giants win (-35.1% for Boston). One single at bat, with the swing between the two basic results worth half of an entire win. That +14.9% Win Probability Added would be his 9th highest total all season all on it's own, and many of his better totals were in two innings of work. If the Villarreal had retired Scutaro and Boston scored a single run in the top of the 10th, a scoreless inning from Uehara would have been worth about +21% WPA. This nice, but the odds that the Red Sox take a one run lead next inning are well under 50% at this point in the game, Uehara could be brought back out for another inning barring an epic, 10+ pitch at bat by Scutaro and the difference between Uehara's pinpoint control and Villarreal's utter lack thereof is far smaller in a fresh inning where a walk or two would not instantly lose the game than it would be with the bases jammed and the score tied in the bottom of the ninth. 

Again, I really like John Farrell, and am happy to have him over Mike Aviles. But I really, really, really hated this call. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Logical Fallacies are Bullshit, Moron

This was a piece I came up with and wrote out as a joke while attempting to decide on a topic for an argument paper. While it is clearly not of sufficient quality to use in class, I think it fits well here

I like well reasoned and sensible debates. The discussing an idea is good for your brain, it makes you think. It’s fun, too, whether you prefer a quiet back and forth or an elevated shouting match, you can have a an awesome time debating. But it seems to me that these days, they just don’t happen like they used to. You can hardly go down the street and ask someone about the president’s health care policy without the stuck up “educated” twits calling everything you say a “logical fallacy” and laughing you out of the room. What the heck is that all about? These people go to their classes and learn “how to argue,” but really all they know is a bunch of technical stupid stuff. “Logical fallacies” are just made up crap designed to eliminate good discussion, and “teaching” of them needs to be abolished.

I know what I am talking about here. I have been wandering the world for years and years, engaging in constant debates and exchanges of ideas, and not one time has a “logical fallacy” being brought up improved the discussion. Not once. I mean, who cares about that? I can make my point whatever you upperclass loonies want to say about it. What do you know? nothing, thats what. You can have a fair and accurate exchange of ideas, or you can be a jerk and mindlessly ridicule everything I say without a thought to it’s meaning. And nobody likes that second guy.

You know who would have appreciated your “logical fallacy” crap? Hitler, that’s who! Who do you think you are, a red-blooded American or a stinking commie weasel? Do you want this country to collapse into an uncontrollable chaos, with nobody knowing anything but how to call you stupid? Good luck with an intellectual exchange of ideas then! And forget about being a strong country, too. Just look at those stupid French intellectuals, folding like cardboard in the face of even the slightest adversity, each and every single time they try to go to war with someone who has an ounce of sense and the ability to actually discuss ideas, not presentation! America is going nowhere but down if we keep this up.

In fact, I have proof of this. When I started hearing that language from my kids, I made them stop that crap right then and there, and gave their teacher a stern talking to! He tried to fool me with more of the fancy “fallacy” speech, but I let him know for sure what we did not accept that kind of crap around here, and what do you know? Once they were free from these pillars of Fascism, their colds went away, and our puppy finally stopped making a mess of the furniture. Does this “Logical fallacy” stuff really cause illness and misbehaving pets? of course it does! Even mentioning it here makes me sick to my stomach, but I fight on for the greater good. I don’t want to live in a world where everything is tied up in the presentation of key topics, not the values of what is presented. If we cannot advance beyond technicalities, what hope is there for true progress? Such thought is truly the root cause of our economic issues, and will turn the world we live in into another bigger, nastier, and stupider Soviet Union. You, reader, are a sensible individual. Join me, and support the cause. We need to stop this, and stop it now. Join the movement, and save our minds, our lives, and our country.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why Do I Hate David Tyree?

This is an essay I wrote last year, shortly after the Superbowl. I am posting it here because I am quite pleased with it and because I will likely reference it in some posts later on. 

Hate is a strong word, describing an evil thing: an extreme dislike of someone or something which historically has driven people to do terrible atrocities. But, perhaps indicating that “hate” is an overused word in modern English, there are several types and levels of hatred. The type which I would say I am currently most filled with is known as “sports hate.”

Sports hatred is usually a product of jealousy, frustration, and other negative emotions which typically result when your team loses, or comes far too close for comfort. I have hated hated hated Peyton Manning ever since I started following football. He was the guy who was in direct competition with Tom Brady for the consensus top quarterback in the game, perhaps of all time. He had an infuriating knack for the fourth quarter comeback. He was sacked only rarely, and he threw very few picks. He had the Manning face when things did not go well. All his backups were colossal failures, something which might suggest that he is not much of a mentor (contrast that to Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, whose backups, because of them or not, have been stellar by comparison). He had a habit of throwing his offensive line under the bus after losses. He was in seemingly thousands of commercials, always acting in a way which just seemed generally irritating for some reason. All in all, there were lots of things which, if viewed through a heavily anti-Manning bias, made him into a very easy figure to hate.

Something I have found this year, however, is that my hatred of the man has evaporated. He did not play at all this season, and it seems like he may never play again. His team completely collapsed without him, getting wins number one and two in weeks 16 and 17 respectively, and it is a near certainty that they will use their #1 overall draft pick on Andrew Luck, widely regarded as the best quarterback prospect since, well, Peyton Manning himself.

Looking back, It seems that the most critical part of my Peyton hate, and sports hatred in general, is that he could be counted on not to do what I wanted him to, and instead do the very opposite. Sometimes he would make a critical mistake, and for that moment an individual pulling against him would be completely ecstatic, but those moments were very few and far between. Now that he is not single handedly winning games with two minute, fourth quarter comeback drives which, despite the very low odds of success for an typical team, always seemed inevitable the instant he had the ball, I have no enraged distracting emotions to replenish that hate and fear, and nothing at all to stop me from looking back at his career, at everything he managed to do that made me hate him so much, and realize not only that he was really damn good, but that I have a tremendous amount of respect and, even more surprisingly, well wishes for him. I want him to be able to come back. I don’t want him to go out like this, forced away from his no question hall of fame career by a shoulder injury, the approaching deadline for his $20 million bonus, and the inevitable competition from a younger, possibly better, and unquestionably more valuable Andrew Luck. Heck, I can even admit that some of those commercials were kind of funny.

Without question the worst moment of my professional sports watching life was Superbowl XLII, the game which has come to be known as “Black Sunday” in those parts of the internet Patriots fans frequent. For whatever reason, I have only a minimal memory of that game, as I suspect my mind has tried to wipe it away for my sake. Of the critical missed interceptions by Asante Samuel and Brandon Merriweather on the final drive I have no memory. I have some memory of both game winning touchdowns. But two plays remain all too clear in my mind, maliciously playing on as I type.

Third and five for the Giants from their own 44. Manning drops back into the pocket, which quickly collapses under the rush. Manning, suddenly in trouble, ducks as a cloud of blue and silver envelopes him. For a moment, he is gone, sacked! 4th and long! But there he is again, out of the mob, unharmed, his jersey caught in some desperate lineman’s hand, momentarily stretched far more than should be possible, the cloud of Patriots somehow behind him and completely out of the play. He throws, and the ball is at a Patriot, Intercepted! No? Caught, by a Giant, with a Patriot all over him, dragged to the ground with the ball still there, caught and held against his helmet, just out of reach and thirty yards down field. 1st down. Seemingly moments later, Touchdown. 17-14, New York.

Third and twenty at their own sixteen for New England. Brady in the shotgun, takes the snap, drops back, dodges a rusher from his left, runs to his right to about the thirteen and launches the ball far and deep for Moss, streaking 70 yards down field with the three Giants in coverage, just a step behind. The ball converges on him, nearly into his outstretched arms but barely tipped by a leaping defender and knocked away, incomplete.

The man who made the catch was David Tyree, an otherwise lousy and unimportant backup wide receiver who had managed a stunning seven receptions over the entire 2007 season prior to that play. That catch was the last of Tyree’s career, but it may as well have been the first and only for all the difference it made to his legacy. That catch is his one and only claim to fame, the one thing which makes him anything worth remembering to total strangers who know nothing of his non business life. It does not really help my opinion of him that that catch was possibly the luckiest play in the history of the modern NFL. Manning’s remarkable escape was made possible by two holds, one an almost understandable non call, the other anything but, and the catch itself, lest we forget, involved him pinning a football with considerable forward momentum against his helmet with one hand as Rodney Harrison did all he could to knock it out. Barring god-like powers, that simply does not happen by skill alone.

What makes it all the more infuriating to me, however, is the comparison between the Tyree catch and the third down, 70 yard Hail Mary bomb which fell incomplete. The Giants did almost everything they could have to be beat on that play, from the offensive line collapsing almost immediately before the New England pass rush, then making two holds in an attempt to make up for it, and once Eli did break away, he simply threw a high, floating, Hail-Mary-esque jump ball (when was the last time one of those worked?) to a single receiver, well covered and surrounded by four, count them, four, Patriots defenders. Tyree caught it, barely, had it stripped from one hand so that it was held in place with literally four fingertips and his helmet, and somehow kept it there as he fell to the ground. Contrast that to the Patriots third and twenty play. The pass protection was clean and effective, with Brady easily stepping out of the way of the only pressure that got to him (which was quickly cleaned up by Logan Mankins). Moss, triple covered, manages to split the front two and outrun the safety over the top. Brady throws it to him, the ball traveling from just off the right hash at the eleven yard line to the big “20” all the way on the other side of the field, a good 71 yards all told. The only error here was not getting just another foot on it, giving Corey Webster the chance to catch up and tip the ball away. Obviously luck does not really work like this, but if the Patriots had gotten half as lucky on this play as the giants on the Tyree catch, Moss would have walked into the end zone with the winning score.

A large part of why this is so frustrating to me actually comes back to my interest in baseball stats, and the critical role of recognising and trying to strip out the effects of luck and random variation from a player or team’s statistics. Probably the first thing one learns is the importance of a good sample size in judging performance. 16 football games is not a great sample size, but it is far, far, far better than one game, and over that larger sample size it would be borderline impossible to claim that the Giants (10-6, 14th in points scored, 17th in points allowed) were better than the Patriots (16-0, 1st in points scored, 4th in points allowed). Throw in all the playoff games, adjust for the remarkable luck they had in their week 13 win in Baltimore, and you come to the same conclusion: the Patriots were a far superior team. If they played a large number of Superbowls the Patriots would have won a large majority. But it was the Superbowl, THE Superbowl, and the one game that was played was a New England loss.

I hated Tyree from that point on, but he was in no way alone. I hated Eli Manning, the lucky son of a gun who managed to pull off a key game winning drive (and the MVP) despite taking every opportunity he could to throw away the game, only to be bailed out by stone hands in the Patriots secondary. I despised Plaxico Burress, who caught the actual game winning touchdown. Over time, my hatred of Manning faded (It seems to have flared up again recently, for some reason), and my hatred of Plaxico was somewhat diffused when the idiot walked into a strip club with an unlicensed firearm stuffed into his sweatpants and shot himself in the leg, earning a couple years in jail. Tyree, however, was special. He had faded somewhat, but fully brought back my sports hatred supported with plain old anger at homophobes when he, considering running for a political office, said he would give back “the catch” to block a pro gay marriage act.

Just about everything in politics today is highly controversial, and I have a fairly strong (and consistently leftist) opinion on most of them: welfare, taxes, abortion, healthcare, federal regulations, and on. For all of those listed, I can at least see some logic in the reasoning of the opponent’s viewpoint, even if I disagree with it. The question of when aborting a fetus becomes killing a baby is borderline impossible to answer. Strictly speaking, on a purely financial level, buying health insurance will probably be a net loss. The idea that money you earn should go to you, not other people who don’t actually work, makes some logical sense at the most basic level. If I had a business, I probably would not enjoy the government restricting what I can or cannot do. Etc, etc.

One of the few for which I do not see the logic backing the opposition, however, is the issue of homosexual marriage rights. The idea that the government should be able to choose if two mutually consenting adults can marry each other makes no sense to me. Seemingly the most common argument is the religious one, as the bible can and has been interpreted to say that homosexuality is immoral, wrong, and will result in an eternity spent in the fiery pits of hell. There is some actual logic going into that decision, at least: If you believe in the literal truth of the bible, then allowing homosexuals to have sex is wrong. However, a belief that not allowing them to marry will stop them from having sex is extremely naive and completely false: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, Maryland, DC, and California are certainly not the only places where homosexual couples have sex with eachother. In addition, and I would say most importantly, the Bible preaches kindness and acceptance of others. Jesus himself is quoted saying “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12) and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Nowhere does Jesus mention homosexuality as an exception to these.

The biggest argument in opposition to homosexual marriage which I simply cannot understand any reasoning for is the “we must protect the sanctity of marriage!” argument. There have been quite a few satirists who had considerable fun with this argument (The Onion, for example), but arguments in favor which use actual logic and evidence are virtually nonexistent. A look at the “Marriage Talking Points” page on the “National Organization For Marriage” website reveals some rather irritating talking points. The biggest piece of advice they give is that “Marriage is the issue. Marriage is what we care about. Marriage really matters. It’s just common sense.” They emphasize avoiding saying things like “ban same sex marriage,” instead, it explains, “Say we’re against ‘redefining marriage’ or in favor or [of] ‘marriage as the union of husband and wife.’” This is clearly a pathos centered argument, which is not surprising given the fact that “marriage” is a bit of a buzzword. They consistently make claims that having a mother and a father is essential to their children (studies like this one have shown that this is false, both for families which have good relationships and those which go through a divorce), and seem to think that because 60% of African Americans oppose homosexual marriage, opposing it must not be bigotry. While the idea that ‘losing the rights to define marriage’ will actually harm people is heavily implied multiple times, no reasoning for how that will hurt anyone is given, and they completely ignore the possibility that those people might want to define marriage as Massachusetts and the ten others listed above have. Are they afraid of the potential collateral damage?

I now hate Tyree not only for his catch, and not only because he is opposed to LGBT rights. I hate the fact that this lucky mediocrity tried to cash in on his one insanely lucky moment to do something which was (in my mind) bigoted and blatantly wrong. I hate almost as much the fact that if I actually had the choice to take him up on his offer, I hate myself for being even remotely uncertain which I would actually choose. It has to be letting homosexuals get married. 19-0 would have been awesome of course, but allowing ~10% of the population to do something I would consider a basic human right would of course be far more important. It is such an obvious choice that even the slightest thought of an alternative choice in this hypothetical and completely impossible scenario makes me very angry at myself. In my head I can reconcile that truly insane thought with the specific wording: I believe his quote referred to that specific bill, which if I remember correctly did not actually pass. I mean, I know I would pick homosexual marriage rights. But it is just the thought that I might even consider the other option which makes me so annoyed. In short, part of why I hate David Tyree is because he makes me hate myself.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tables are a wonderful thing

Just an update that I have finally noticed and corrected the screwed up table formatting in my  lineup synergy study post here. I you started reading it but were chased off by the broken/nonexistent tables, It is now safe to return.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

And Now For A Word From Our Sponsors...

The Red Sox this season, for however much of a myriad of reasons (injury, poor starting pitching, Chicken and Beer, management, "chemistry", un-clutch performances, defense, bad luck, lack of Chicken-and-Beer, stupidity with regards to pain meds, umpires, Larry Lucchino, etc), have been bad this year. I find this rather frustrating, to the point that right now I do not really want to complain about them and have instead turned to another topic near and dear to my heart (note: sarcasm): awful radio commercials.

I have heard from a former advertiser that good advertising is intended to create a need in the person targeted, and offer a product which would fulfill that need. The creators of some of my "favorites" appear to believe that while that is great and all, just making people remember their name is plenty. This may or may not be true, so in exchange for spreading their brand ever so slightly more, I will say that a purchase from one of these companies is just a little bit more money towards some terrible, lazy, and (to me) irritating advertisers. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Expectations and Probabilities

Peyton Manning is a quarterback, primarily for the Indianapolis Colts (a team I strongly dislike), now with the Denver Broncos. He is one of the very best ever at what he does (coming back from behind late in games). Because of that he has hurt my team many, many times in his playing career, and likewise any time he fails to do so is cause for an unusual amount of celebration. He was injured last season, and while he will be back for this coming season, we still do not know if he will ever be the same again.

Mariano Rivera is a closer for the New York Yankees (a team I strongly dislike). He is, almost without question, the very best ever at what he does (holding small leads in the late innings). Because of that, he has hurt my team many, many times in his playing career, and any time he fails to do so is cause for an unusual amount of celebration. He is injured this season, and while his will likely be back next season, we still do not know if he will ever be the same again.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Middlebrooks Breaks Wrist, Sox Clinch Full Season Without #1 Lineup

Will Middlebrooks was hit on the hand in yesterday's otherwise encouraging victory over the Cleveland Indians, landing him on the DL with a broken wrist and just about guaranteeing that the Red Sox will not put their best lineup on the field for a single game this season. For reference, that expected best lineup would look something like this:

C: Salty/Shoppach (platoon)
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
2B: Dustin Pedroia
3B: Youkilis/Middlebrooks
SS: Mike Aviles
LF: Carl Crawford
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
RF: Ross/Sweeney (platoon)
DH: David Ortiz